Eureka! Factory, together with its nonprofit associate FCDI, is engaged in the establishment of a Tampa Bay area Advanced Manufacturing and Robotics Center. As the Center begins to develop, we’ll set up it’s own website and this page will be a description of it within the E!F website and portfolio. Until then, you can read about the Center’ mission, benefits, resources and requirements here and get an overall sense of this great program.
The mission of the Tampa Bay Advanced Manufacturing & Robotics Center is three-fold:
- To provide a training and talent pipeline for Science, Technology and Manufacturing careers in the Tampa Bay and Central Florida regions.
- To inspire young people to become STEM, Manufacturing and Industry leaders by engaging them in exciting mentor based, diverse and inclusive programs that build science, engineering and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership,
- To act as the headquarters for a Central Florida FIRST Hub with satellite facilities and resources throughout the Tampa Bay area and running along the I-4 Tech Corridor between Tampa and Orlando
The Tampa Bay Advanced Manufacturing & Robotics Center will benefit the immediate community by providing STEAM Education Excellence and Workforce Readiness through:
- Manufacturing training and solutions access and resources
- Improved STEM and STEAM education accessibility, inclusion and impact for area youth
- Practice and meeting space for FIRST robotics teams
- Public events, workshops and classes related to science, technology, and manufacturing
- Career and skilled technical education with certification opportunities in programming & manufacturing related fields
- Internship and employee pool of well-educated, experienced and trained youth & young adults
The Advanced Manufacturing & Robotics Center will be a collaborative, cross program effort of several cooperative organizations and academic institutions, including the Foundation for Community Driven Innovation, the project administrator, Toyoda America, Doolittle Institute, FIRST field staff, Americorps VISTAs, K-12 FIRST program partners, the Agile Learning Center, Computer Mentors, and others, and will include:
- Industry standard manufacturing equipment, including CNC, milling, lathes, drill presses, etc.
- A full scale permanent FIRST Robotics Competition field for high school level, FIRST Tech Challenge field, for middle and high school programs and FIRST LEGO League playing tables for elementary and middle school programs
- Hardware and software to support K-12 STEAM education through:
- Professional Development for educators including Curriculum and Standards Alignment resources, training in Diversity and Inclusion in science, technology, and manufacturing education and more
- Programming, design and engineering classes and training for youth
- Kit and parts loans for teams and classrooms
To provide an effective year round educational, training and career facility, the FIRST Robotics Center should ideally include:
- 15,000 to 30,000 sq. ft. of open climate controlled space to house manufacturing center equipment and permanently assembled 47’x 74’ FIRST Robotics Competition field (includes 10’ passage and activity space on each side), a 12×12 ft. FIRST Tech Challenge competition field, and two 4’x8’ FIRST LEGO League competition tables
- A securable building, in a safe community for youth and family participation, away from heavy traffic and other hazards
- Adequate power distribution, climate control, and appropriate lighting for shop tools and equipment
- Office space for co-work, staff and classroom facilities
- Proximity to, or space for, related industry and manufacturing centers and offices for development of apprenticeship and internship opportunities
- Sufficient on-site parking for 30 or more vehicles and buses
The Foundation for Community Driven Innovation (FCDI) is a 501c3 not for profit organization dedicated to supporting academic achievement, economic development and the spirit of innovation through inspiring programs, active learning and exciting, innovative projects. FCDI facilitates fiscal sponsorship for FIRST youth robotics teams, and supports exciting hands on learning and living events like Gulf Coast MakerCon, Tampa Bay’s annual maker festival, and ROBOTICON Tampa Bay, an annual FIRST Showcase event at the USF Sun Dome. Visit FFCDI.org or contact Steve Willingham at Steve@FFCDI.org for more information.
The Tampa Bay Advanced Manufacturing & Robotics Center is being developed by a collaborative community of local for-profit and nonprofit organizations. You can find out more about them on our Meet The Team page.
- Foundation for Community Driven Innovation – nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting academic achievement, economic development and the spirit of innovation through inspiring programs, active learning and exciting, innovative projects.
- Doolittle Institute – nonprofit organization whose mission is cultivate a vibrant ecosystem, shaping successful collisions to innovate and commercialize technologies that support the warfighter, with related K-12 educational support that includes sponsorship and grants to FIRST teams
- Eureka! Factory – for-profit consulting and creative programming company that designs makerspaces in public places like libraries and museums, as well producing annual ROBOTICON, an annual STEM event featuring an exciting robotics compitition among student teams from all over the state.
- The People of Manufacturing – for-profit manufacturing education and training company
According to the 2016 Tampa Bay Gap Analysis, there are nearly 5,000 manufacturers representing more than 61,000 employees in Tampa Bay, with a total income contribution of almost $9 billion to the local economy. Each manufacturing job created results in an additional 2.65 jobs, according to an economic impact analysis from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. To support the projected increase in output, the number of local manufacturing jobs is expected to slightly outpace national manufacturing employment (5.3% compared to 5%) through 2024 per EMSI. Manufacturing technicians are among the most highly sought after employees in the manufacturing community. The Gap Analysis identified three main areas that need improvement to continue supporting this vital economic sector:
- The lack of interest in manufacturing that is causing a shortage of skilled workers.
- Potential workers lack knowledge of industry.
- A greater connection between industry and education.
Since FIRST is a proven K-12 STEM education and workforce readiness program, with nearly 30 years of proven results, it is the first choice program to complement the Manufacturing and Robotics Center programming. Florida FIRST teams, including several Tampa Bay teams, typically do quite well at all K-12 competitive levels. In the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) level – middle and high school – we have some of the most competitive teams in the country, including a team started by FCDI board members 10 years ago, Team Duct Tape, which has gone to the World Championship twice, to the South Super Regional twice, and to the state Championship every year since its founding. Plant High School’s FTC Team KN03 just competed in the South Super Regional in Athens, GA, one of 13 Florida teams there. Middleton High School has been part of the world championship alliance several years in a row.
Florida FIRST Robotics Competition teams – the big high school level robots – are among some of the oldest in the nation, with team 79 – Krunch – operating out of East Lake High School a long time championship team, along with Middleton HS FRC. The very first FIRST Championship events were actually held in Florida, at Epcot, until the program outgrew the venue. Today, the Orlando Regional is one of the oldest and biggest FIRST Robotics Competition events in the country, now in its 20th season and drawing over 4500 people to the University of Central Florida CFE Arena each spring. In Tampa, ROBOTICON, our annual FIRST Showcase and off-season event, held at the USF Sun Dome in October, drew over 60 teams from around Florida, including three teams from China and an educational contingent from Brazil. Over 2000 people attended ROBOTICON which is poised for robust continued growth.
In 2016, Florida teams made it to finals levels in FIRST Robotics Competition and FIRST Tech Challenge, facing off against over 600 FRC teams and over 250 FTC teams from all over the world, thanks to the support of state industry giants like Lockheed Martin, Harris, NASA, and Rockwell Collins who see the long term value of supporting youth in FIRST. These companies, and others like Booz Allan Hamilton, BAE Systems, Boeing, Goldman Sachs and others invite FIRST students as interns on the FIRST Internship portal (http://www.FIRSTinspires.org/alumni) and over 200 scholarship providers now make available over $50 million in scholarships to FIRST students – because FIRST works. It produced workforce skills ready individuals, with a working, real world knowledge of problems and how to solve them.
As the program continues to grow, though, we need places for students to build, learn, prototype, program and practice, that connect them with mentors from the professional community and leverage the talent and skills we want them to acquire in a way that keeps young talent in the community and continues to build upon itself in the service of a sustainable talent pipeline. If Tampa Bay is serious about becoming the powerful tech and industry center we’re fully capable of becoming, then investing in a science, technology, engineering and manufacturing education and skills development center that serves K-12 youth, and provides high end training and workforce development to close the skills gap, is a solid investment in that future.
The Eureka! Factory, a trademark of Willingham Associates LLC, is a collaborative of creative individuals and business partners who believe in the power of community driven innovation to help people move from passive consumption to empowered and active creation of their future and ours.